Social collaboration and why a cultural journey is necessary: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 6)

Australia's Olympic women's coxed eight races during a training session at the Sydney International Regatta Centre

We’re talking 20-25%. That’s the raise in knowledge worker’s productivity that McKinsey estimates can be obtained through internal usage of social collaboration tools. That number came out last summer through their social media report entitled The Social Economy, and the lead from the project, Michael Chui, was kind enough to join us in a Hangout to explain further.

More specifically, the point of McKinsey’s study is – and it’s based on an impressive and convincing amount of research – that office employees on average spend 28 hours a week or more than 60% of their time writing and reading emails, searching for information and attending meetings. Many of these things can be done more rapidly and efficiently through internal social platforms such as Chatter, Yammer and Jive.

Allow me to repeat myself: internal social media can free up 20-25% of an office employee’s time. That’s massive. Imagine the potential impact on the bottom line. And how it will improve the company’s competitiveness.

The social collaboration tool is… a cloud!
The reason why these platforms are more efficient – when used the right way – is that they make relevant information available to the community and thereby ensure fewer repetitive tasks and increase the organizational learning across functions and geographies.

It’s basically about moving away from a complex model of 1-to-1-communication towards putting everything in a cloud from where people can gather the information they need when they need it.

Essentially, it’s about getting the workforce to work smarter.

To illustrate it in a simple way these are the two models we are talking about. First, here’s the ‘old’ landscape where everyone is involving everyone else in all sorts of combinations, without any kind of center (or filter):

The old model

And this is the second, ‘new’ model where the employees communicate via the cloud:


Ironically, the second model looks less social. The first one is a flat, networked structure whereas the second model instills a hierarchy (where the cloud is the king). But the second one is more social. It introduces a more collaborative approach by providing us with a more sophisticated way of tapping into the collective genius across the organization.

The days wasted in meetings and e-mail correspondences with those who matter to us mostly because they sit close to us seem to be drawing to a close.

The key here is that the cloud – when used the right way – acts as a filter and thereby ensures relevance, ease, speed and cross-collaboration.

Should we just provide and pray?
At Maersk Line, we have already implemented an internal collaboration platform as an extension of our intranet, but this is not enough. Achieving the huge competitive advantages envisaged by the McKinsey study takes more than simply making the technology available.

Our own research shows that a so-called ‘provide and pray’ tactic has a failure rate of 90%. Only a ‘provide and pressure’ approach delivers worse results.

So, what is the alternative? How do you achieve the 20-25%?

Our thinking is that it’s about encouraging the organization to adopt the right behavior. It’s not about rules (or even “rules of engagement”), but rather about inspiring by communicating the good stories that others can learn from.

Perhaps we will also tell some of the less positive stories – if they are educational.

From ‘me’ to ‘us’: why a cultural journey is necessary
On a more general level, most companies will need to embark on a cultural journey if they are to reach the goal of 20-25%.

In order to reap the full benefits of social technologies, companies will have to cultivate a behavior characterized by the individual employee thinking more about ‘us’ than ‘me’. In other words: a corporate culture where collaboration thrives, and where employees have a more holistic view of value creation.

Employees need to experience that they gain more status from sharing their knowledge than from protecting it.

From a financial point of view, the internal usage holds the biggest potential value we can derive from using social media. Or social technologies as McKinsey terms it, in an attempt to make clear that social media is much more than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.

McKinsey is on to something. Social media is just one part of a much bigger digital equation. Even if you happen to have 1 million Facebook fans.

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This post was my last one about what we learned in Maersk Line in the course of our social media study. I hope someone out there found the series to be useful.

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  1. Hey Jonathan,
    Thank you very much for a great and inspiring blog series. I find it very valuable and admirable that you have shared so much of your work. Putting information in the cloud for all to find is of course an interesting and generally a good idea, but how does that work in practice for you?

    I am myself in the process of upgrading our intranet platform and enabling the social features build in SharePoint 2013, not the greatest but a step in the right direction.

    I was wondering if you could elaborate a little more on what social systems you have integrated internally and what concrete initiatives you have taken to ensure user adoption?

    Thanks a lot,

    1. Hi Oliver,

      It’s still early days in Maersk Line. We have implemented in our Sales organization and with this came Chatter which our CS people recently gained access to too.

      So far we’ve created guidelines and tips & tricks for usage of it – and we plan to create a monthly infographic visualizing the usage and (hopefully) the progress. In order to get people to feel ownership and make it clear what works and what doesn’t work.

      Also, some projects on Chatter are running as pilots, really focusing on applying this tool and not email etc. Hopefully, these pilots will give us some valuable insights as well as some good stories to share with the rest of the organization.

      Since you’re already using Sharepoint I would look into implementing Yammer which Microsoft bought last year (for exactly this purpose).


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